Here it is after careful consideration and many many rewrites. These are my top ten albums of 2018. This year my list features a lot of EPs so that’s a big difference than previous years. So without further ado and of course in sequential order from the number one on …

1. BASTILLE // Other People Heartache Part 4

“Other People’s Heartache Part 4” caught me off guard in the most fantastic way. The EP opens onto one of the most beautiful covers of the Cat Stevens classic “Wild World”. It ties a thread between the last Bastille record “Wild World” to next one “Doom Days”. We then segue into the next cover of a somewhat obscure song “Would I Lie To You?”. To which Bastille gave it a much-needed update leaning towards a more RnB and Trap music sound. The next song is “Grip” which is a fun and straightforward EDM track. My only criticism is it just seems a bit out of place on an EP filled with RnB, Hip-Hop and Trap-Pop jams. But the song is so good though. The two stunners for me are the En Vogue cover of “Don’t Let Go (Love) and “Flowers” where the music and vocals by everyone (in particularly Dan Smith) are so on point oozing just enough sex appeal to not overdo it. The EP ends on “The Descent” which is just such a badass track and has the most heart aching surprise towards the end. We rightly close out on the “Warmth (Outro)”. The fact that Bastille uses these “Other People’s Heartache” mixtapes as a thread between records is so brilliant. I love that they also wanted to feature new British talent as well. The artist on the opening track is Kianja and her vocals blend so well with Dan’s. She’s featured prominently on this EP, along with the likes of Jacob Banks, Moss Kena, Lily Moore, Charlie Barnes, S-X, Craig David, SEEB, Swarmz, Rationale, and James Arthur. All in all Dan’s vocals, the production, and Bastille as a band have never been better on this very diverse and very unique mixtape style EP. That is why it’s still ‘On Repeat’ for me.

Standout tracks: “Would I Lie To You?” , “Don’t Let Go (Love)”, “Flowers”, and “The Descent”.

2. Bishop Briggs // Church Of Scars

I don’t think there has been a more inspiring album for me this year. “Church Of Scars” has a vulnerability to it that’s raw and Bishop Briggs vocals pack so much emotion throughout each and every track. For a debut album, this is a stunner, one that hits you in the heart lyrically and melodically. Having seen her twice this year; where I heard this album live in both a quiet acoustic setting and full throttle live show; just adds another dimension to “Church Of Scars”. Therefore making Bishop Briggs not only of one of my favorite new voices and artists currently, but “Church Of Scars” my number two pick for favorite albums of 2018.

Standout Tracks: “Tempt My Trouble”, “River”, “Hi-Lo (Hollow)”, and “Wild Horses”.

3. The Wombats // Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

The Wombats “Turn” ended up being one of my absolutely favorite songs this year. “Turn” is also track number three from “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life” which has landed at the number three spot on my songs list. The Wombats are a trio hailing from Liverpool, their 2018 release is a fresh and lively rock number with guitars reminiscent of 90s Brit Rock and Pop. It’s chock full of quirky and fun lyrics relating to the aches and pains of love that just scream The Wombats. The numerous danceable melodies and catchy hooks populate songs like “Cheetah Tongue”, “Lemon to A Knife Fight” and “Lethal Combination” from start to finish. On the extended version release, we got new songs like “Bee-Sting” (which is fantastic live) and “Oceans”. By the end of “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life,” The Wombats had me fully converted. This is an album worth hearing and also a band you should definitely see live if only to hear this record.

Standout tracks: “Turn”, “Cheetah Tongue”, “Bee-Sting”, “Lemon to a Knife Fight”, “Out Of My Head”.

4. Shawn Mendes // Shawn Mendes

Though I had been following his musical career since I heard “Stitches”, I thought the song was catchy but I never thought that same guy would come to create this Soulful Pop Rock gem. From the massive stadium rocker and first single “In My Blood” which speaks to the frustrations of anxiety and social pressures of being young. To the funky and come hither “Nervous”, and the acoustic ballad “Like to be You” which features Julia Michaels. But the super funky smash “Lost In Japan” is the stellar standout. The song has a super cool “Lost In Translation” inspired video to go with it and an EDM remix from Zedd. Overall, this was my favorite “Pop” album this year featuring, great hooks and choruses, fantastic production, and Shawn’s guitar and songwriting skills amped up several notches. We should also take into account Shawn’s creative and business savvy in choosing to continue to work with the perfect people on this album, most notably his longtime songwriting partner, Teddy Geiger.

Standout tracks: “Fallin’ All In You”, “Lost In Japan”, “Nervous”, “Particular Taste”, “Why”, and “Mutual”.

5. MAY // Phantom [EP]

MAY is someone that truly only comes around once in a blue moon. I used this phrasing because she evokes that type of nostalgia and so does her absolutely mesmerizing EP, “Phantom”. Harkening back to days of Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack and when jazz standards were the Pop hits. MAY and her Phantom EP brought some of those ghosts forward in the most heartbreaking and beautiful manner. With elements of gothic charm strewn throughout, the “Phantom” EP was not dated whatsoever. Her voice was a siren call to anyone who has ever felt any type of loss or heartbreak. The personal interludes from her life interspersed on the EP were a lovely and thoughtful touch. The only other thing I would tell you to do besides listening to MAY is too see her live, as that is a special experience all on its own.

Standout tracks: Falling, Last September, Northern Lights, and Baby Save Me Tonight.

6. James Bay // Electric Light

James Bay is the third artist of three on this list I saw twice this year live (the other two being Bishop Briggs and Bastille). Electric Light really was all over the place but in the best way possible. We saw James dip his musical toes into so many other genres such as RnB, Pop, Soul, Electronic, and even a bit of edgier Rock on “Electric Light” and for what it’s worth it made a solid effort that grew on me as the year wore on. Seeing him play these songs live from the record and hearing how hard he worked on these tracks gave me a new perspective on the album. Edgier cuts like “Pink Lemonade”, with its punk leanings, “Fade Out” with soul and RnB swagger, “Us” and “Wild Love” in there soft beauty stand out the most for me. “Slide” and “Wanderlust” and “Stand Up” are all also great moments. The album despite its confusing genre blending moments turned out to be a favorite of mine because of the talent behind all of it. Something that is still quite hard to find.

Standout tracks: “Wild Love”, “Pink Lemonade”, “Us”, “Fade Out”, “Slide” and “Wanderlust”.

7. Saint Clair // D2 [EP]

This soulful EP by Childcare bassist and newcomer Emma Topolski truly came out of nowhere for me. If you follow this blog you know I have previously reviewed it but as the months wore on and after repeated listens it just stayed with me. The overall haunting and forlorn vibes flow throughout the EP. Although the genre leans towards Electro and Indie you can very much hear other elements and genres that Saint Clair found inspiration in. The EP opens up with the groovy electro-pop jam “Human Touch” and Saint Clair’s smoky sexy timbre sets the tone for the rest of EP. On the utterly tragic “I’ll Stay” you can hear echoes of nightclubs and smoky jazz clubs amidst the track. The pumping 80s like synth beat you hear dropping in and out only adds to the dark mystery of the song. “D2” for being something that came out of nowhere was certainly a welcome and beautiful surprise.

Standout tracks: “I’ll Stay”, “I’m Still Standing”, and “Human Touch”.

8. Rationale // High Hopes

From the opening notes on “Explosions”, I can tell that the “High Hopes” EP has Rationale in a much different head space and form. His influences have gone far beyond his home base which is London and cultural influences of Africa (in particularly Zimbabwe). The opening track opens with sounds that any touring musician is familiar with, sounds from an audience before transitioning into a throbbing bass line. A sound that is more familiar in Hip-Hop and RnB songs in America. The rest of the EP unfolds at a lovely pace with Rationale digging in quite well to what he’s great at …creating heartfelt and emotional songs with lyrics that can be felt amongst a cross-section of people. On the title track “High Hopes” his voice is strongest I’ve heard and “One by One” we see him fuse London, African drums and beats as well as the influences gained from touring to create an absolute banger. No wonder this EP stood out for me garnering repeated listens.

Standout tracks: “Explosions”, “High Hopes, and “One By One”.

9. Akine // Don’t Foster Fear [EP]

This is such a heavy set of songs lyrically that you would not expect it to come from someone so young, 16 to be exact. Akine is a wise artist and old soul, something you find out quite quickly as the EP plays out. The use of electronic instruments is not drastically overdone so Akine’ slightly raspy and haunting vocals are not drowned out. Songs like “Money In Your Mouth” can speak to anyone having to deal with a certain type of guy that uses his fame (or power) and wealth to show off. The track also has a slight disco feel to it. My favorite tracks “No Gold” and “Pray for the Prey” stays with you long after you’ve heard it. The vocals have a pleading feeling to them, making the messaging behind those lyrics all the more urgent and Akine well aware.

Standout tracks: “Pray for the Prey”, “No Gold”, and “Money In Your Mouth”.

10. Lauv // I met you when I was 18

Technically a playlist/album but I think one of the most cohesive yet underrated albums this year. Lauv had a banner year with his mega-hit “I Like Me Better” that seemed like it came out of nowhere. That song is also how this album playlist opens up, introducing you to Lauv“Blue World”. So through beautifully layered vocals, melodies, electronic elements combined with live instruments and lovelorn lyrics, Most notably in songs like “Reforget” and “Paris In The Rain”. Lauv creates a world with this album, that not only has encapsulated young love and heartbreak for this era but beautifully tells his story. It’s no wonder people have been flocking to his shows.

Standout Tracks: “I Like Me Better”, “Paris In The Rain”, “Reforget”, “Comfortable”, and “Easy Love”.

So there it is a little late then normal but done with care. Let me know you thoughts in the comment section or on social media! 🙂

Until then,

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! 🙂

Brittney W.

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In the basement bar of Music Hall of Williamsburg a couple days ago, I got the chance to sit down and chat with the indie band Wilderado. We chatted about all things ranging from the start of the band to their first ever album. The band later performed an unbelievable show as an opener for the psychedelic, eccentric band Sure, Sure. Read below to hear more about what Wilderado band told us about their past, present and future.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you guys start off by telling me how Wilderado came together as a band?
Yeah! Three of us went to college together [total of 4 members]. Two of us are from Texas and two of us are from Oklahoma. We all started out in LA. We all ended up out there and started playing music [together] and next thing you know we were recording songs up at a house in Malibu. Now three of us are married, two of us are back in LA while two of us are back in Tulsa and we’re just writing and touring pretty constantly.

Where did you guys go to college in Texas?
Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Three of us attended that school.

You guys have been touring with Sure Sure for a little bit now, is there a connection between the two of you guys that made you two want to tour together?
Our agencies just linked us up. It’s pretty unromantic. But there’s a lot of connection going on between us now. We really love those dudes. Very, very beautiful people. Quite honestly, it has been one of the more fun trips just because of them. I think we’ve had a lot of fun just getting to know them. They’re sweet guys and easy to work with. So yeah, we’ve really enjoyed it.

Do you see a collaboration?
Oh man, I would. If they ever wanted to collaborate on something I would say yes pretty fast.

And you’re just touring the US on this leg of tour?
Just the states but we are going all over the place. We started in San Diego and going as far as Boston and then end in LA. We will be hitting 23/24 towns. It’s cool to see new places. In 30 days.

You guys are embarking on a tour across the United States, do you have favorite locations? Is there a specific reason as to why?
Ah, New York for sure. We have a pretty good draw here. We have a sort of romantic connection with it. It was kind of one of the first things we did, we came to new york. There is also kind of this buzz around coming to this city with a purpose so it feels cool to be coming to this city to be playing a show. You know, like this world class, world famous city, putting on a show is pretty fun to do here. It feels like a bit of an honor. To be coming all the way up here [from Oklahoma and California] to be playing a show is special.

What have you guys enjoyed most so far on this leg of tour?
This leg, like where we are right now, I mean this is the part of the tour where the set start to really feel good, you start feeling confident, reactionary rather than trying to remember your parts. I’ll say it over and over again but, honestly, the best part of this tour so far has just been hanging out with this band [Sure Sure]. It’s just been fun to watch them, they’ve been cool and it’s fun to watch them, learn from them, hear them. Their music is just really sophisticated.

You guys don’t have an album out yet, correct me if I am wrong here.
No, we just have EP’s.

Can we expect an album sometime soon from you guys?
Yeah, I mean it’s something we are working on but we don’t just want to put out a record to just put out a record for its own sake. I think right now we are really just collecting songs, and writing, and touring but for sure that’s the idea. We are all very romantic about it, we want Wilderado LP 1 very badly, it’s a huge goal.

Who are your musical influences?
I think for the band it’s a lot of Third Eye Blind, Kings of Leon, and real early Coldplay. Crosby Stills and Nash. It’s a lot of thing honestly.

If you collaborate with any artist dead or alive to write a song who would it be and why?
Max:
Miley Cyrus! I wanna sing with Miley, I wanna know what it’s like. I’m dead serious. I think she’s awesome.
Tyler:
I may be saying this because we just saw Paul McCartney, but I think George Harrison. I’ve always liked his solo stuff and the way he told stories about himself. I think he had a lot of influences on the guitar melodies and guitar lines we’ve wrote.
Colton:
Since you brought up The Beatles, I think Paul.
Justin [Drums]:
I’m just gonna agree there with The Beatles!

– Sabrina A.

The guys of Tropic are back with another soulful cover …

Remember Tropic? The soulful Electro-R&B Pop duo I recently introduced you to. Well, now they’ve dropped a brand new cover. This time the groovy duo take on one of my faves, Frank Ocean and his hit “Thinkin’ Bout You”. Tropic is a group who is quickly becoming quite well versed in the world of cover songs. Most notably with their unique and fresh update on Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” (see my review here).

The duo, consisting of singer Jo-B Sebastian and producer Phuse aka Jarel Hill do justice to this cover as well. Once again Jo-B’s slightly husky tone (which also are very reminiscent stylistically of 80s R&B singers) glide along beautifully and the way Jo-B plays around with wording through vocal ad-libbing, pair perfectly to Jarel’s futuristic yet soulful production on this cover. Altogether the combination of the two creatively adds a new perspective on the Frank Ocean track which has become quite the groundbreaking track. So as I had mentioned prior, to do it justice is to do a song in your own way, which Tropic has successfully done.

Stream Tropic // Thinking About You:

Tropic Socials:

Tropic Official: http://www.tropicofficial.com/

Tropic // Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tropicofficial

Tropic // Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tropicgrams

Until then,
Brittney W. 🙂

So I did my first phone interview with Nashville based Singer-Songwriter Sam Hale. His new EP; Somewhere Between Love & War is out October 12th. We chatted music, Nashville, family and his Iranian heritage …

[The interview has edited for clarity and context]

The Reclusive Blogger: Hi, Sam, How are you today?

Sam Hale: I’m doing great. How about yourself?

TRB: I’m doing fine. So, Sam how did you get started in music?

Sam: The first memory I even have of being alive was like being around music was my parents house parties . They weren’t musicians, my Dad’s an Architect. He kind of has a little like of an artistic being in him. But like basically I grew up in Iran (I moved when I was seven years old). So my family would throw house parties all the time and there were a couple of guys that would always come over and play, one played guitar and one played piano. They would entertain everybody. Instead of like normal kids would do, I was more obsessed with the music being played. I was intrigued and enamored by it. Eventually as I got older at 12 I started taking lessons and at 16 I started writing my own songs. That was when it stuck with me when I could express myself with my own lyrics, melodies and chords. Stuff like that.

TRB: Speaking of Nashville … How has Nashville influenced you as musician and artist? Also how has your prior years in Los Angeles? In what ways can we hear both influences on the new song and EP?

Sam: I came here to just kind of change my mindset and reset myself to be focused in music and just try to see what it’s like to be in an uncomfortable setting where you have to like have to meet people all over again. And you know it was definitely a challenge. So in LA I kind of got more like the pop background you know, cool bars and clubs and music venues that they would always have like awesome synth groups. like you know. When I came to Nashville. It’s a little bit more stripped down out here. It’s like it’s back to the basics with drums, bass and guitars. So being out here I definitely got more influenced by the Americana stuff. A couple artists out here that are awesome are David Ramirez, he’s definitely influenced me. I ended up working with this producer Sam Kassirer. So that was awesome. Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Andrew Cohen.

TRB: Since we mentioned your new EP and song. Let’s talk about it. Your current single “Can’t Take It” is off the EP “Somewhere Between Love & War”. What was the recording and writing process like for that?

Sam: Well as far as the title goes on I just kind of felt like you know there’s a lot of emotions on the EP that all kind of just figures in a little area, “Supernatural” was more reminiscent for me as it touches on you know me back when I was in Iran. The first single called “Can’t Take It” is about toxic relationships. The EP basically about a lot of things that I went through in the last couple of years.

TRB: Who are your biggest inspirations and influences as musician and artist? They can go beyond music.

SAM: My Dad. He got us to America when we were younger. And you know, he brought us out here so we would be able to follow our dreams. have a free and easier life and he sacrificed his career he’s a great family, man, he’s been married to my mom for I think, like 45 years now. As far as music, I don’t really follow music so much these days. But I would also say, Chris Martin from Coldplay.

TRB: Who Is Your Dream Tour mate?

SAM: Thom Yorke or Trent Reznor.

TRB: What lyric have you written means the most to you?

SAM: “The Tourist” from my new EP.

“Years bend to minutes through the turns. A new generation’s driving. I’m in the backseat pressed to my seat“

Sam Hale // “The Tourist”

TRB: I usually start out with a quick icebreaker question but this time I’ll end with it… So Coffee or Tea?

Sam: I would say both! I used to be anti coffee because it gave me anxiety, but I drink Coffee in the morning for a boost and Tea (decaf) after dinner.

TRB: Anything else you would like to add?

Sam: Check me out social media and I’m most active Instagram. Check out my website Sam Hale.net and my music!

⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

Follow ‘Sam Hale’ on Social below:

Stream Sam’s EP “Somewhere Between Love & War” Here.

Sam also has EP release show in Nashville on October 20th at The Bowery Vault!

Thank you for your time Sam!

Until then,

Brittney W.